Glacial retreat impacts on water resources in tropical Andes


Wong Building Room 1050, 3610 rue University, Montreal, QC, H3A 0C5, CA

This seminar given by Michel Baraër (hydrology professor at the École de technologie Superieure, Montreal), is open to the public. 

Glacier shrinkage caused by climate change is likely to trigger diminished and less consistent stream flow in glacier-fed watersheds worldwide. In the tropical Andes, where this retreat is particularly pronounced, the hydrological changes could generate problems for agriculture, irrigation, hydropower, subsistence farming, livelihoods, and tourism economies. Despite the threat posed by ongoing tropical glacier decline, detailed studies of the future impact of global warming on water resources in potentially affected regions are long overdue. After a brief overview of the current regional situation, we will explore the particular case of the Rio Santa watershed in Peru. The Rio Santa drains the western slopes of the glacierized Cordillera Blanca in Peru and supplies fresh water to a large array of user types, making an excellent site for studying regional water resources questions. We will detail how assimilation of observations from novel high resolution discharge recordings, basin-scale hydrochemical characterization, and model simulations of progressive glacier loss, indicate that the Santa River has likely passed the transient “peak water” caused as discharge from melting glacier storage provided higher flows. We will examine maps of Rio Santa dry-season specific discharge projections that have been established based on the recent Trans-disciplinary Andean Research Network (TARN) field campaigns. These maps provide new insights on the Rio Santa watershed future evolution of water resources. Among other, they show a probable negative impact of glaciers retreat on the quality of the Rio Santa water. 

Michel Baraër is a professor in hydrology at the École de technologie Superieure, Montreal. He received his undergraduate degree in Chemistry from the University of Strasbourg, France, Master in “Integrated Water Resources Management” from the Department of Bioresources Engineering at McGill, and PhD in Earth and Planetary sciences also from McGill.